Do Some Psalms Come From Hell? (And Other Questions About Davening)

Q. Why, in Kiddush Levana and on other occasions, do we praise King David and proclaim that he should live forever using the line from Rosh Hashana 25a (דוד מלך ישראל חי וקיים‎) rather than that from Melachim I 1:31 (יְחִ֗י אֲדֹנִ֛י הַמֶּ֥לֶךְ דָּוִ֖ד לְעֹלָֽם)?

A. Thanks for your questions. The contexts of דוד מלך ישראל חי וקיים‎ and יְחִ֗י אֲדֹנִ֛י הַמֶּ֥לֶךְ דָּוִ֖ד לְעֹלָֽם are completely different. In Sefer Melachim, Batsheva was expressing literal wishes to the actual King David that he should live forever (which he obviously didn't). The statement in Rosh Hashana is not a prayer or a wish, it's a statement of fact: David lives and endures. This is a metaphor applicable to our entire nation: the Davidic dynasty, from which Moshiach and our redemption will spring, is alive and well. (In the particular context of Kiddush Levana, it waxes and wanes, like the moon, but it never truly disappears.)


Q. Why is Kabbalat Shabbat not omitted on or immediately following Rosh Chodesh the way it is on or immediately following Yom Tov/Chol HaMoed?

A. Not reciting (most of) kabbalas Shabbos when Shabbos coincides with yom tov was once explained to me as follows: if two guests were to show up at your house, showering one of them with praise would be insulting to the other. It's just rude to give Shabbos all of our attention and ignore poor yom tov. Kabbalas Shabbos is also unnecessary on chol hamoed, when we are already in an elevated spiritual state. Rosh Chodesh, however, is clearly chol. Maariv on Rosh Chodesh is like any other night, there's no kiddush, we perform melacha. Rosh Chodesh, while special and important, doesn't "compete with Shabbos" for attention the same way that yom tov does.


Q. If selected Psalms were written by Korach’s sons in Gehinnom, how did they get included in the book of Psalms? Who heard the 11 Psalms they sang from Gehinnom?

A. Thanks for your question. The sons of Korach who composed Psalms weren't in Hell, nor were they in the center of the Earth. The sons of Korach who composed Psalms were sons who didn't participate in their father's rebellion and were therefore spared being swallowed by the Earth. (Such a salvation, of course, would be a powerful motivator to sing songs of praise!)


Q. In benching, in place of the הרחמן of בעל הבית הזה and בעלת הבית הזה, what does one say if they are eating alone or eating in a public building where there is no baal habyis?

A. אותי


Q. Kindly advise the times on which can pray and connect with God?

A. Thanks for your question. In Judaism, there are three daily prayer services that must be recited in certain time frames, one in the morning, one in the afternoon and one at night. That doesn't mean that one cannot connect with God at other times. Even when it's not time for one of these formal prayer services, there are other prayers that can be said. Reciting Psalms is a particularly popular means of connecting with God, which can be done at any time.

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